As Jessica mentioned earlier today, last night, at a rally in Nevada, Sarah Palin brought up the fact that the average woman in Barack Obama's Senate office makes less than the average man saying, "Does he think that the women aren't working as hard? Does he think that they are 17 percent less productive?" This, naturally, comes from the ticket that doesn't support the Ledbetter pay equity legislation because it would cause too many lawsuits! But there are actual facts involved that are worth pointing out.For one, this story started with that fabled feminist publication the Cybecast News Service in June, when they used publicly available data from Legistorm to calculate the average salary among Obama's 70 staff members. It was then expanded upon by that great champion of women's rights, Deroy Murdock at the National Review. He pulled together all the staff (Murdock leaves off McCain's paid male interns and keeps in all staff who didn't work a full six months), divided them by gender and averaged their salaries. He came up with the fact that Obama's female staff — regardless of position — makes 83 cents to the dollar of every male staffer based on six-month salary statistics, but disregarded staff that didn't work a full 6 months — like, say, if they went and campaigned. Of course, if you compare like positions to like positions, when available, from before their staffs started leaving to work on the campaigns, the figures look a little different. Obama's 2 female staff assistants earned an average of $16,800 from April-October 2007, whereas the 3 male staff assistants earned an average of $25,000 (skewed by one outlier) — and McCain's 8 female staff assistants earned an average of $22,000 to his the average of $18,500 of his 5 male staffers. But Obama's one female legislative assistant (a higher position) earned the same as 2 of her male colleagues and more than the third, while McCain's lone female L.A. earned less than all three of her colleagues— and the same went for McCain's lone female legislative correspondent with her male colleagues. Does Obama acknowledge that his senior Senate staff is heavy on the men? Yes. In the time period before the primaries started, 3 of Obama's top 10 staffers were women, and none broke the top 5 in terms of pay. He points out — and rightly so — that there are many, many women among his senior campaign staff and top earners there (as there is, to a degree, in McCain's campaign). Six of McCain's top earners in his personal office were women. Of course, one major difference is that McCain's staff is split between the Armed Services Committee minority staff and his personal office, something none of the conservative publications took into account (and something Legistorm doesn't easily show). Another problem is that we're talking about pay equity within a group of about 70 people (less, if you don't count those who didn't work the full term) with varying job descriptions. No one in the feminist movement is asking that a staff assistant doing clerical work be paid the same at the Chief of Staff. What we're suggesting — and what's in the Ledbetter Act — is that when women and men are performing the same jobs with equal skill and an equal level of experience that they be paid the same. So, it's great that McCain's Senate office pays highly qualified women salaries commensurate with their experience and it's great when Obama does the same (and would be better, given how female dominated the Hill can be, if he could find more women to do that with). But do we have to be willing to accept that all employers will be like John McCain? Clinton Backers By Her Side, Palin Makes Pitch To Women Voters [CNN] Related: Obama's for Equal Pay, Yet Pays Female Staffers Less Than Males [CNS News] How Team Obama Pays Women [National Review] Staff Salary Data [Legistorm]
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